14 contemporary artists create new public art for and with Philadelphia

arts / Article

Photo: Open Source curator Pedro Alonzo, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program staff, and NextFab representatives discuss the fabrication and specifications of Jonathan Monk's skateable sculptures, Steps and Pyramid, now on view through November 2015 at Paine's Park, Philadelphia. Credit: Steve Weinik. 

This week, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program kicks off Open Source, a citywide public art project that promises to be the most exciting and innovative art initiative in Philadelphia this year.

Open Source is one of the biggest initiatives we’ve ever taken on. Under the direction of curator Pedro Alonzo, 14 trailblazing artists from Philadelphia and around the world are working with Mural Arts on a wide range of public art projects. From now through the fall, Open Source will continue to grow, and in October 2015, the project will culminate as a citywide exhibition of temporary public artworks.

The artists in Open Source make up an unusually diverse bunch, culled from many different art world silos. It’s a massive project that has brought together brilliant contemporary artists from around the globe, like street artist Swoon, Philly favorites Billy and Steven Dufala, and internationally recognized sculptor and painter Sterling Ruby. Working with Mural Arts, and benefitting from our 30-plus years of community-based, collaborative work, these artists have a distinct opportunity to reach new audiences and to execute projects in Philadelphia that other organizations can’t help them pull off.

Every artist in Open Source is creating a new public artwork for Philadelphia, built on the synergy between what he or she does and Mural Arts’ unique combination of methodology, access and resources. Sam Durant may have work in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, but a museum can’t connect Durant to men at a state prison – men who can help him develop fresh ideas about how public art can represent the complexities of mass incarceration. We have made that happen, and now Durant is working with our Restorative Justice program on one of the most ambitious pieces of his career. In different ways, the same is true for every artist in Open Source.

This introductory video, featuring Alonzo, myself and Open Source project manager Monica Campana, features additional information on what to expect and why Open Source is so exciting for Mural Arts, the artists and Philadelphia:

As you can see, Open Source is ambitious, and each project is complex. For the past few months and continuing into the fall, the Open Source artists have been developing their projects. For the artists coming from out of town, this has meant numerous visits to Philadelphia. Right now, Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon, is spending the better part of a month living full time in Philadelphia and running art workshops with men and women in our Restorative Justice program. Soon MOMO will be in town for an extended residency with our Art Education program, working one-on-one with high-school students and teaching them techniques that combine art with geometry.

On Friday evening, June 5, we’re launching Open Source and kicking off the exhibition at Paine’s Park, where the irreverent British artist Jonathan Monk has installed skateable sculptures based on two Sol LeWitt sculptures, located just across the street at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The sculptures will stay in the park through October. We would say that this is the first Open Source project to be completed, but Monk’s pieces won’t really be complete until they’ve been skated on, turning the work into a collaboration with the public and a sparking a conversation about the ways we interact with works of art. Monk’s sculptures are, however, the first Open Source project that anyone can visit.

Come by Paine’s Park on Friday, June 5, from 6–9 p.m. for food trucks, live music from Chill Moody, a skate demo from Nocturnal Skateshop, and the first chance to see an Open Source project activated. And of course, bring your skateboard. Learn more and RSVP on Facebook.

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